LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO)
Richland, WA
May 2009

Welcome to "Listening to the Stars," LIGO Hanford Observatory's electronic newsletter.  Please reach us through the contacts below for additional information on the news items in this edition. 

**Astronomy: More than Romance?  LIGO and CBC at LitFest, June 4
LIGO and Columbia Basin College will join forces on June 4 to close the 2009 Mid-Columbia Literary Festival with a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.  The Hub Main Stage at CBC will serve as the venue for a 7:00 PM discussion of the practical benefits of astronomy research.  Are there spin-offs from our attempts to learn more about the universe?  Some of the "yes" answers may surprise you.  The panel discussion will feature Tri-City Herald astronomy columnist Roy Gephart, CBC Astronomy Instructor Tony George and LIGO's Fred Raab and Dale Ingram.  Audience participation will be welcomed.  Following the discussion, audience members will be invited to stroll to the Moore Observatory for a star gazing session.

**Get Your Hands on Astronomy at LIGO on June 20
Telescopes are the primary tool of optical astronomy, but astronomers use a a variety of implements to probe the sky. (LIGO's instrument of choice is, of course, a huge interferometer).  Come to LIGO at 1:30 PM on Saturday, June 20 to "make and take" a number of simple astronomy devices such as spectroscopes, sun dials, star finders and more.  We will also perform experiments on lenses, mirrors, prisms and other pieces from the astronomy tool kit.  Admission is free and all ages are welcome.  We expect the event will be of particular interest to families with children in the middle school and early high school years.

**Search the Deep Sky at Summer's End
LIGO's annual August star gaze is set for Saturday night, August 22 with a smörgåsbord of Tri-City Astronomy Club telescopes pointed at objects near and far.  The Perseid Meteor Shower, one of our favorite August targets, peaks in the middle of the week of August 10 this year, so LIGO will offer a non-meteor theme for the evening (although a few meteors might fly by).  Check the LHO Web site as August approaches for full program details.

**LIGO Summer Tours: June 13, July 11, August 8
The next monthly Observatory tour will occur on Saturday, June 13 at 1:30 PM.  Tours continue to be offered on the second Saturday of every month.  Remember that private tours are offered for groups of 15 or more.

**For Teachers:  August Teacher Workshop
Join a team of teachers at LHO on August 13 and 14 for a workshop featuring LIGO's Web-based data analysis software.  Learn how to facilitate research projects for your students using data from LIGO's environmental sensors such as seismometers and weather stations.  All that's needed is a Web browser.  The workshop will provide the opportunity for teachers to practice on the software and to develop plans to implement it with students.  This is a great way to add more inquiry opportunities for students.  Stipends will be provided.  Contact for more information.

**New on the Web:
LIGO collaborators at the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam have added to the growing list of user-friendly black hole and gravitational-wave resources on the Web.  Scienceface offers informal video interviews of notable researchers such as Caltech's Kip Thorne, Washington University's Clifford Will, and others whose interview clips are soon to come.

**Hanford H2 Detector Retires
A milestone of sorts occurred at LHO on May 28 as the 2-kilometer H2 interferometer was operated for the final time in its existing configuration.  As was reported in our last issue, LIGO's S6 science run will begin in July 2009.  LIGO data collection in S6 will occur on the 4-kilometer detectors in Hanford and Louisiana (H1 and L1).  The heightened sensitivities of these Enhanced LIGO machines will put them far enough ahead of H2 that the shorter detector will be removed from service.  H2 will return in Advanced LIGO as a completely upgraded instrument with 4-kilometer arms, rejoining H1 and L1 to provide LIGO with three full-length detectors fully outfitted with new mirrors, mirror suspensions, 180-Watt lasers, multi-stage active vibration isolation and advanced signal processing.  H2's retirement brings the era of Initial LIGO lasers to a full close as the laser systems in H1 and L1 already have been replaced for the Enhanced LIGO configuration.  The H2 10-watt laser ran essentially continuously for more than 10 years, producing 1-micron light at a frequency stability of 1 part in 1010.  

**Travel Advisory Continues
WA State Route 240 will continue under construction through September 2009.  Reductions to one traffic lane for construction purposes are resulting in delays for those on their way to LIGO.  Weekday visitors and field trips may wish to reach LIGO on Stevens Drive instead of 240.  Check LHO's driving directions to see a map of the Stevens Drive route.  

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